While many may consider a child’s snore to be cute, or even funny, habitual snoring in children should be a serious cause for concern to parents. This is because children with sleep disorders associated with snoring can be misdiagnosed (with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, for example).
Snoring by children is fairly common. As a matter of fact, on average between 3% and 12% of children of preschool age, snore.Â Most of these children, however, are perfectly healthy, having nothing more than a mild case of primary snoring.
Primary Snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome?
Primary snoring is simply snoring that is not associated with more serious problems. One of those â€œmore serious problemsâ€ is obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), which is estimated to be responsible for about 2% of all children that snore.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common, but serious, sleep disorder in which the victim will have episodes when they stop breathing during the night. One can usually tell when the sufferer does finally take a breath because a loud snore will occur.
Besides the obvious danger this poses as it compromises the ability to breathe during the night, increasing research evidence suggests that it plays a major role in school and behavioural problems in children. Â When children snore, their brains receive less oxygen and this can lead to problems with brain function.
Until recently it was widely believed that primary snoring was not a major cause for concern since it was easily taken care of simply by getting the â€œvictimâ€ to sleep on his/her side rather than on their backs. Research studies have shown, however, that even this type of snoring could be problematic.
This is what prompted the American Academy o f Paediatrics, in 2002, to recommend that all children be screened for snoring in an effort to determine whether or not the child is experiencing normal primary snoring or OSAS.
Angela Jackman and colleagues at the University of Melbourne and Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, conducted a research study on 40 children who were referred for clinical assessment of a sleep-related breathing disorder and matched controls. The research abstract was presented on June 11 at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).
In this abstract Jackman states:
“Primary snoring in children has traditionally been considered benign, in part because some children grow out of the condition without intervention. Mounting evidence now suggests, however, that this condition can impact cognition, behaviour, and academic performance. Furthermore, our current preliminary findings concur with emerging evidence that primary snoring in children may also impact heart function.”
Snoring Symptoms to be Aware of
How do you know if your child is just a normal snorer or if he has obstructive sleep apnea?
Children who snore and do not have OSAS should be otherwise well, without daytime sleepiness and they should have normal sleep patterns.
In contrast, children with OSAS usually have disrupted sleep with short “pauses, snorts, or gasps” in their sleep. Children with OSAS also may have behavioural problems, a short attention span and problems at school.
Other signs and/or symptoms to be aware of include:
- Large tonsils and/or adenoids with frequent mouth breathing, hypo nasal speech and nasal obstruction
- Poor weight gain
- High blood pressure
Whatever the underlying reason, snoring in children should be a source of concern. It could be responsible for the daytime sleepiness, short attention spans, and behavioural problems at school.
If these signs are evident in your children, it is a good idea to discuss it with your pediatrician.